A nation of spies

‘And you are?’

‘Chip Wood’



‘Child abuse’

‘No, only carpentry’

‘What? No matter. Any formal experience in matters pertaining to the detection of child abuse?’

‘Er…no, I repair things’

‘No problem, the training takes care of that. You’re hired.’

‘When does the training start?’

‘Weren’t you paying attention? You’ve just had your training, didn’t you hear me mention “child abuse”?’


‘There we go then. Next!’

Lincoln Council are about to pioneer a system whereby tradesmen are to be used as spies to spot possible cases of child abuse. They will, of course, receive training – a half a day! – before being let loose. They will be assisted by a backroom staff of around 600 people who will have an even shorter (!) ‘awareness’ training.

The tradesmen will be instructed in what pertinent signs to look for, such as wearing long sleeves in hot weather or pregnancy!

If one can save just one child from abuse, then any system is worthwhile exploring, but it has to be done properly. It often takes medical staff years (not half a day) before they can recognise a case of abuse with any degree of certainty, but even then it can go horribly wrong. It is not something for amateurs. Too many innocent people can get hurt.

There seems to be an obsession at the moment to get everyone spying on each other, where will it end? Who will carry out the council building works while the tradesmen are busy spying? And are we going to see the seemingly inevitable introduction of ‘performance indicators’ for such work, leading to false allegations to ensure bonuses or overtime pay?

Protection of children is essential, but this sounds like a very dangerous way of going about things. The fact that this comes from the head of ‘corporate review and development’ should set the alarm bells ringing.

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